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The Sister Surprise


One More Chapter

a division of HarperCollinsPublishers

The News Building

1 London Bridge Street

London SE1 9GF


First published in Great Britain by HarperCollinsPublishers 2021

Copyright © Abigail Mann 2021

Abigail Mann asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

This novel is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, down-loaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins.

Ebook Edition © 2021 ISBN: 9780008393694

Version: 2021-03-01

Table of Contents


Title Page



Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41


Keep Reading …

About the Author

Also by Abigail Mann

About the Publisher

To Joe

For all the laughing and walking that brought me back to myself

Chapter 1

At twenty-seven, I should have outgrown the act of picking glitter from my cuticles, but then again, being Lorrie Atmore’s daughter comes with its own set of obligations. Today, I’m covertly multi-tasking. If you were to part the wind chimes at the back door to peek inside our tiny kitchen, you’d see me blasting oak leaves with a hairdryer, using my elbow to pin down the stack that I’ve already washed and dried. In my head, however, I’m running over lines from the script I’ve spent every lunchtime working on for the past week.

Mum launches into an anecdote about a supposedly malicious gluten scandal between the PTA mums as I silently mouth the words that I’ll present on a live stream tomorrow morning. After five years at Snooper, I’m a little too well-adjusted to my role as sub-editor, or Captain Comma, as my colleague Max so often calls me. The Oxford A-Z of Punctuation is my Bible and I can reference it with the passion of a born-again Christian. It’s not the legacy I thought I’d have, so when I was offered a chance to front something of my own, I said yes immediately. Seeing as Snooper claims to be ‘on-the-pulse media for the anti-news generation’, I should have expected that career progression would be unconventional, but going from an editorial desk to a spotlit studio is decidedly out of my comfort zone, not that I’ve admitted it.

Mum, however, relishes being at the centre of a community that hums around her. She’s been the chairperson at Dulwich Green Primary since 1999, a position she refuses to relinquish, despite the fact that I stopped attending fifteen years ago.

I hold two glittery acorns to my chest like I’m plucking the cherry from an iced bun. She frowns, her cheeks dimpled in a barely suppressed smile.

‘You look like a burlesque dancer. A really cheap one,’ she says.

‘Mum!’ I shout, as she chugs with laughter like a faulty diesel engine. I flick the acorns across the table, stretch high above my head, and let my mind tick things over. I’ve been on the cusp of telling her about my work assignment all week, but every time I open my mouth it’s like a claw drags the words back down my throat. ‘So …’

‘Mmhm?’ She threads a silver bead down the stem of an oak leaf.

Now. Tell her now.

‘How many more do I have to do? My fingers hurt,’ I say, falling back on topics I know to be conversational safe zones.

‘Don’t be silly. It’s too early for that. You’ve got no idea what a hardcore session with half a dozen placards and paint tubes looks like—’

‘Back in the day …’ I say wistfully, pre-empting her speech. Thanks to her terrible aim, the acorn she throws in my direction misses by a foot and tinkles as it hits a porcelain teacup on the dresser behind me.

‘Cheeky cow,’ she says, using her glasses as an Alice band for her mess of over-permed hair. ‘But yes, back in the day we’d pull all-nighters with the fabric paint. That red blob by the fireplace is a symbol of resistance. And sleep deprivation.’

‘The one that makes the living room look like a crime scene?’

‘That’s it. “You Otter Be Ashamed” painted over four bed sheets. We made the front page of The Sunday Times with that one. Best day of my life,’ she says, wistfully.

‘Thanks …’

‘All right, second-best day of my life,’ says Mum. ‘Before you came along, obviously.’

I push my chair back to let our pot-bellied cat vault onto my lap. He purrs, kneads my thigh, and looks up at me with sleep-drunk eyes.


‘All right, but then I’ve got to go to bed. Big day tomorrow.’

I rub my stiff knuckles and knead my temples, tucking a lock of hair behind my ear. I glance at the clock and check my phone through a squint. If I go to bed now, I might be able to get six hours in before I have to travel to Holborn for the hair and make-up appointment that was booked for me. Personally, I don’t think my twice-yearly trim needs updating, but apparently when you’re asked to present on a live stream it requires a look that’ll ‘stop the kids from scrolling’, whatever that means.

I think back to the steps that led to me presenting tomorrow and struggle to credit it to the Rolodex of self-help books I listen to on my commute. To get ahead at work, The Career Doctor suggested ‘socialising

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